One of the salient architectural features of my French house is that it has very few internal doors.
This is fine if all you want to do is swan from room to room remarking on the pretty patterns made by the mildew or marvelling at the delicate festoons of cobwebs. But when you're trying to work at the dining room table, and the dining room is actually more of a cupboard off the sitting room, and the sitting room is where your mum spends the day watching television, then things become slightly more vexing.
Far be it from me to speculate on the efficacy of my mum's hearing, so let's just say that mum likes the television to provide her with a rich cinematic experience. There's nothing about Hetty Wainthropp Investigates or Keeping Up Appearances that can't be improved by cranking up the Dolby surround sound to plaster-loosening levels, for example.
Today, however, mum decided she'd had enough of Patricia Routledge's various incarnations and started watching her Lord of the Rings DVD box set instead. As I was trying to write an article about European economic competitiveness, this gave me no choice but to put on my headphones and attempt to drown out the hobbitses by subjecting myself to the complete works of doomed Oregonian junkie Elliott Smith at an inadvisably loud volume.
Under the circumstances, it's a wonder I even heard my phone ringing, but I did, which is how the following scene unfolded:
Mobile phone rings. I yank off my earphones and am instantly felled by a tidal wave of orchestral music as the LOTR theme swells and booms around me.
Me: (answering phone) Hello, Patroclus speaking.
Client: Oh, hello, it's your client here. I was wondering if you had a few minutes to go over something with me?
The LOTR theme rattles the windows and light fittings with nuclear intensity.
Me: Oh, yes, sure. Of course.
Client: Are you sure? You sound, er, busy.
Me: No, no, I'm fine, I'll just move into the...hang on...
I move three feet to the right, into the kitchen. The volume abates by a fraction of a decibel. I pray for a contemplative scene in which Frodo stares into the middle distance with a troubled look on his face. Unfortunately, the music continues to swell. Then swords start to clash, and dwarves and Men start yelling about dark things and rings of power.
Client: Have you got the document open in front of you?
I haven't. I've left my laptop in the dining room. I'm going to have to go back in there and fetch it. I wait for a lull in the proceedings and make a dash for it, phone cradled to my ear.
Me: Right, yes, just opening it now...
From the sitting room, a booming voice intones 'ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY WALK INTO MORDOR.'
Client: Are you in an airport?
Me: Not exactly.
I hastily unplug the laptop from its various shackles and run back with it into the kitchen. Unfortunately, it turns out that one of the things I unplugged was the earphones. Now Elliott Smith is blaring out of the speakers at an inadvisably loud volume.
Elliott: NO BAD DREAM FUCKER'S GOING TO BOSS ME AROUND
Client: Should I ring back later?
Me: Yes, I think that might be best, actually.